Judge Roy Bean was a guy who owned a bar in Texas. There wasn’t much in the way of a court system around where he lived during the late 19th century, so he was appointed a Justice of the Peace. My research on this man (2.5 minutes on Wikipedia) showed me that he knew what he was doing.
I’ve been asked over the years to judge fiction entries into various contests. There’s not much in the way of the law in the wilderness of contests.
Unfortunately, here are things most people who enter these contests do (or don’t do). Thus, I’m giving you the list. If you violate any of these rules, I cannot guarantee that you’ll be spared a visit from the ghost of Judge Roy Bean (me) who will write you a strongly-worded email.
- Formatting: There are dozens of sites that give you standard formatting advice. In fact, if you Google “formatting fiction” you will get literally hundreds of sites. If you don’t know what style of formatting to use, then go to the Writer’s Digest site and use theirs.
- Fonts: This is part of formatting, but it deserves a special mention. If I see an entry that has fancy fonts, it will have lousy writing. If your story is not good in Courier 12, then it won’t be any better in Bazoom Cute 11.9.
- Spelling: I’m amazed that someone who wants to be a writer doesn’t know the difference between “you’re” and “your.” If you’re a lousy speller, run your spell checker. That means sit down with a dictionary and read your work. Or show it to someone who’s willing to proofread. Or pay someone to proofread.
- Backstory is not interesting. Really. I don’t care if your protagonist was jilted at the age of twenty-one by a classmate who later won a billion dollar lottery. If your backstory is compelling, then slip it in bit by bit after about fifty pages or so.
- Description is not interesting. Really. I don’t care if your protagonist is a petite blonde with green eyes the color of clover. If description is compelling, then slip it in bit by bit after about fifty pages or so.
- Motivation: You’re going to have to convince me why your protagonist is doing whatever he’s doing. I realize that every reader of fiction must make a willing suspension of disbelief. It’s hard for me to believe that some guy happens to plop down in the middle of a big mess that he alone can solve, but I love Jack Reacher. I will continue to read the stories because Jim Grant makes me believe Jack Reacher is supposed to be there doing whatever he’s doing.
“Time will pass and seasons will come and go,” Judge Roy Bean is alleged to have said. This is true and, I might add, “No contestants will ever pay attention to what I have said here.”
Bill Hopkins is retired after beginning his legal career in 1971 and serving as a private attorney, prosecuting attorney, an administrative law judge, and a trial court judge, all in Missouri. His poems, short stories, and non-fiction have appeared in many different publications. He’s had several short plays produced.
Bill is a member of Horror Writers Association, Missouri Writers Guild, Heartland Writers Guild, and Sisters In Crime.
Bill and his wife, Sharon Woods Hopkins (a mystery writer!), live in Marble Hill, Missouri, with their dogs and cats. Visit them on Facebook (link below).
COURTING MURDER was his first novel and his second novel RIVER MOURN won first place in the Missouri Writers’ Guild Show-Me Best Book Awards in 2014.
He has published six novels and another one is due out at the end of 2018!
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